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Degeorge v. United States

November 13, 2007

REX DEGEORGE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint on September 14, 2004, against the United States and various agents of the United States (collectively, "U.S. Defendants"), as well as the Republic of Italy and various agents of the Republic of Italy (collectively, "Italian Defendants"). The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the U.S. Defendants on September 29, 2006, and dismissed Plaintiff's case against the Italian Defendants on January 2, 2007. As Plaintiff had no remaining claims against any of the Defendants, the Court dismissed the case on January 2, 2007. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's [30] Motion for Reconsideration filed on October 30, 2006 (pending at the time of the Court's dismissal), and Plaintiff's [43] Motion for Leave to Amend his Complaint filed January 3, 2007. After a thorough review of the Parties' submissions, applicable case law and statutory authority, the Court shall DENY Plaintiff's [30] Motion for Reconsideration and DENY Plaintiff's [43] Motion for Leave to Amend, for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges the following. On November 8, 1992, Plaintiff's yacht was "partially flooded with seawater some 50 miles off the Italian coast of Naples." Compl. ¶ 6. The yacht was "successfully towed . . . ashore," presumably by the Italian Defendants, and then "dry-docked in Salerno, Italy." Id. On November 9, 1992, the U.S. Defendants "intentionally, recklessly and maliciously communicated to the Italians false, derogatory disinformation" concerning Plaintiff, and as a result of that communication, Plaintiff was detained by Italian officials. Compl. ¶ 7. While subject to detention, Plaintiff's yacht was destroyed by the Italian Defendants looking for "arms or drugs," which Plaintiff alleges would not have occurred but for the information communicated by the U.S. Defendants.*fn1 Compl. ¶ 8. Plaintiff brought claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680; the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and a spoliation of evidence tort.

On September 29, 2006, the Court granted the Motion to Dismiss brought by the U.S. Defendants in its entirety and dismissed the case with respect to all U.S. Defendants acting in their official capacities. The Court held, in relevant part, that Plaintiff's allegations "clearly fall within the intentional tort exception to the limited waiver of sovereign immunity provided by the FTCA [28 U.S.C. § 2680(h)] such that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Count one."*fn2 [27] Mem. Op. dated Sept. 29, 2006 at 12. With respect to the Italian Defendants, the Court held that because "any claims Plaintiff may have had against the [Italian Defendants] hinge on the alleged actions and liability of the U.S. Defendants themselves," the Court held in abeyance claims against the Italian Defendants until any dispositive motion was resolved as to U.S. Defendant Dario D'Andrea, who Plaintiff sued in his individual capacity. Id. at 1-2. The Court instructed the U.S. Marshall's Service to serve process on Mr. D'Andrea and held all claims against him and the Italian Defendants in abeyance pending this service. Id. at 1.

On October 30, 2006, Plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of Count One of the Complaint. The Government opposed the Motion on November 20, 2006. Prior to ruling on that Motion, the Court issued an Order on November 3, 2006, and again on November 27, 2006, ordering Plaintiff to provide the full name and home address of Mr. D'Andrea to allow the United States Marshall's Service to effect service. See [32] Order dated Nov. 3, 2006 at 1; [35] Order dated Nov. 27, 2006 at 1. The Court indicated that pursuant to Local Rule 5.1(e), failure to comply with the Court's Orders would cause the dismissal of the case against Mr. D'Andrea. See [35] Order at 2. Plaintiff filed a notice with the Court on December 18, 2006, acknowledging Plaintiff's receipt of the Court's orders but indicating that "Plaintiff regrets that he is unable to [provide Mr. D'Andrea's home address] because he does not have the financial ability to retain an investigator to locate Mr. Dario D'Andrea." Pl.'s [39] Notice at 1-2. The Court dismissed the case without prejudice against Mr. D'Andrea, and because "any claims Plaintiff may have had against the [Italian Defendants] hinge on the alleged actions and liability of the U.S. Defendants [of which there were none remaining]," the case was dismissed as to the Italian Defendants. See [42] Order dated Jan. 2, 2007 at 2. The Court ordered the entire case closed on January 2, 2007, because there were no remaining claims against any Defendants. The Court informed the Parties that Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration would be decided by the Court after Plaintiff filed his Reply thereto. See [42] Order dated Jan. 2, 2007 at 2.

On January 3, 2007, Plaintiff filed a Reply brief in support of his Motion for Reconsideration, but also sought leave to amend his Complaint to add a claim under the admiralty statutes of 46 U.S.C.A. App. §§ 742-744 (2006). The Defendants opposed Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint on January 23, 2007, and Plaintiff filed a Reply on February 12, 2007.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion for Reconsideration of the September 29, 2006 Order

While Plaintiff does not cite a legal standard under which his Motion for Reconsideration was brought, the Defendants correctly cites to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in its Opposition. See Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. at 3. Pursuant to Rule 54(b), any order or other form of decision, however designated, which adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties shall not terminate the action as to any of the claims or parties, and the order or other form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.

Because the Court's September 29, 2006 Order granted the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss without adjudicating Plaintiff's claims as to the "Italian Defendants," Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) applies to Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration.

The standard for determining whether or not to grant a motion to reconsider brought under Rule 54(b) is the "as justice requires" standard espoused in Cobell v. Norton, 355 F. Supp. 2d 531, 539 (D.D.C. 2005), which requires "determining, within the Court's discretion, whether reconsideration is necessary under the relevant circumstances." Id. Considerations a court may take into account under the "as justice requires" standard include whether the court "patently" misunderstood the parties, made a decision beyond the adversarial issues presented, made an error in failing to consider controlling decisions or data, or whether a controlling or significant change in the law has occurred. See Singh v. George Washington Univ., 383 F. Supp. 2d99, 101 (D.D.C. 2005). Furthermore, the party moving to reconsider carries the burden of proving that some harm would accompany a denial of the motion to reconsider: "In order for justice to require reconsideration, logically, it must be the case that, some sort of 'injustice' will result if reconsideration is refused. That is, the movant must demonstrate that some harm, legal or at least tangible, would flow from a denial of reconsideration." Cobell, 355 F. Supp. 2d at 540.

Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration offers two reasons why the Court should not have dismissed the Complaint as to the U.S. Defendants. First, Plaintiff alleges that his claim was brought against the U.S. Defendants for information that was intentionally, recklessly, and negligently communicated to the Italian Defendants. See Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. at 7. Plaintiff argues that the Court mistakenly identified his claim as alleging only intentional conduct, and that proof of negligence would allow him to prevail on this claim. Id. at 8 ("Plaintiff can prevail by establishing either that the agents were negligent or the U.S.A. failed to properly supervise run away agents"). Plaintiff's argument is without merit. The Supreme Court has held that § 2680(h) of the FTCA bars suit against the United States for communication of misinformation, whether negligent or intentional. See Block, et al. v. Neal, 460 U.S. 289, 296 (1983) ("§ 2680(h) applies to claims arising out of negligent, as well as intentional, misrepresentations") (citing United States v. Neustadt, 366 U.S. 696, 703-706 (1961)). Accordingly, even if the U.S. Defendants negligently communicated incorrect information to the Italian Defendants, those communications would still fall within the scope of the "misrepresentation" exception to the FTCA.

Plaintiff's second argument is based on a factual distinction. Although Plaintiff claims that he was detained because the U.S. Defendants communicated false information to the Italian Defendants, he also alleges that "Plaintiff's damages were caused by Defendants' negligent inspection of its files in its computer systems." Pl.'s Mot. to Recons. at 12. Plaintiff surmises that this allegation circumvents the misrepresentation exception of the FTCA, § 2680(h). This argument is belied by the allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that his yacht was damaged during his detention. Compl. ¶ 8. Plaintiff further alleges that he would not have been detained but for the false information communicated by the U.S. Defendants to the Italian Defendants. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. Had the U.S. Defendants merely maintained false information in their computer files, but had not conveyed the information to the Italian Defendants, Plaintiff's Complaint suggests that his yacht would not have sustained any damage. For this reason, Plaintiff's damages ...


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